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Gestational Diabetes and Your Child

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 18/06/2014

Gestational diabetes appears when you are pregnant. Up to 5 in every 100 women in England and Wales will present with the condition, making it more common than most women are aware of.

When Does Gestational Diabetes Develop?

Gestational diabetes usually presents itself in the second or third trimester of your pregnancy, anywhere from 13 weeks . This is when your body may be struggling to develop enough insulin to handle the changes in your pregnancy. This time is also when your baby's vital organs have fully developed and you may also start to feel them kick as their muscles develop.

Most women worry that having gestational diabetes will harm their child's development, this isn’t true if the condition is treated properly. Whilst in the womb, your diabetes should not adversely affect your baby's development. However, there is the possibility that it may cause problems at birth.

When you visit your midwife, they will go through the risk factors of gestational diabetes. Risk factors include: a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 30, having given birth to a previously large baby (9 ½ lbs or over), a previous pregnancy where you have had diabetes, having a close family member with diabetes or being part of a particular ethnic group.

If you present any of these risk factors, you will be offered a urine test or a blood test to check your glucose levels. If you are not offered this test, develop gestational diabetes and go untreated, this can be harmful to both you and your baby. Most midwives will recognise the symptoms, but for those that don’t, they have put you and your baby in danger.

How Will It Affect My Baby in the End?

Not all women will require medication for their diabetes. Often improving your eating patterns, diet and taking on regular exercise is enough to control your blood sugar levels. However, for some women taking tablets, or even insulin injections for the remainder of your pregnancy will be required. If you are given incorrect treatment, this could cause further complications in the long run.

If your blood sugar levels are high, the sugars will pass through the placenta to your baby. This will cause your baby to grow larger than their gestational age resulting in birthing problems. Giving birth to a larger baby could damage their shoulders on the way out of the womb by getting trapped behind your pubic bone – these are called obstetric brachial plexus injuries (OBPI). Erb's Palsy affects the upper and lower arm and Klumpke's Palsy is the paralysis of the hand, wrist and finger flexors. There are no cures for these kinds of injuries but therapies are available.

What Happens After the Birth?

You may be able to stop taking your diabetes medication after you give birth, but you will have your blood sugar levels checked at your 6-week check-up. If your levels are still high, this may mean that you are developing type 2 diabetes, but the pregnancy just accelerated the process.

Following the birth, your baby may have low blood sugar levels, this is called hypoglycaemia. A failure by your medical team to spot the signs of hypoglycaemia could lead to irreversible brain damage. The symptoms of this brain damage are much like those of cerebral palsy. Financially, this can put a strain on your family in terms of the extra support and equipment you may need to buy to make your child's life run as smoothly as possible.

For help regarding any of these situations, complete our enquiry form, or call us to speak to a member of our team.

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